February 24, 2007


Sunday, February 18, 2007


Susan sent a bunch more pictures of Jimmy and Cali playing in the snow. These are relatively refreshing looking, from the warmth of southwest Florida. For you northerners who have endured a couple of weeks of really wintry weather, they may not be very entertaining. I really enjoyed the photos, particularly as I didn't have to go our in the cold myself.

Once again, I didn't enjoy the photo format, as Kodak really makes it hard to crib the pics for the newsletter. However, crib them I did, and the whole bunch is available in Photos, under Susan's Snow Pics.

Kibosh on Key West

The trip to Key West to celebrate John Peterson's birthday didn't come off this morning. It was an on-again, off-again affair.

I woke up this morning to the sound of rain on the roof. Not a good sign. Early on, I checked the weather for the area using my FliteSoft computer program, and found that there was rain over a wide area including Fort Myers, Key West, and much of the Gulf waters in between. I kept an eye on the weather until a reasonable time to call John and Pat and tell them that we had not picked a good day for the trip. I could fly, alright, but dining outside in the rain, particularly with low temperatures and a high wind, wouldn't be all that great.

John said he wasn't surprised, as it was raining in Naples also, and he agreed that we should choose a later date, probably after he and Pat get back from Texas, where they will be visiting next week. I tried to call my baby sitter pilot to tell him the trip was off, and found I didn't have his home or cell number. The home number was unlisted.

Pretty straight forward story up to this point. However, as often happens in Florida, within minutes, the sky in Cape Coral cleared up, and the sun started to shine brightly. Consulting FliteSoft again said that the weather was simultaneously clearing up in Key West, and they were expecting no rain by the time we would get there. So, I called John back to say we could go after all. He thought it was probably still too cold and too windy, and we ought to reschedule.

I went to the airport to meet Shawn Homolky (the baby sitter pilot), who said he had thought of calling me about canceling because the winds were over 20 knots at Key West, and would be nearly a direct crosswind. He didn't like the idea of landing there, so he was glad the trip was off.

Birthdays galore

I mentioned in last week's newsletter the unreasonably large number of birthdays this week, including five that are being celebrated today. The list, in case you forgot, includes:

  •     John Victor Peterson, my fraternity brother in      college and long time friend.

  •     Dolores' niece, Margaret (Wachdorf) Burrell.  Marge is more of a friend and  companion to Dolores than she is a niece.

  •     Dan Anthony Black, Susan's husband, and our favorite Professor of Economics.

  •     Diana (Wachdorf) Hart, Bob Hart's wife.

  •     Maxine Brown, who isn't really a member of our family, but pretty close.

There is one more birthday later in the week. Nathan Fasullo, son of Frank and Laurie (Van Beek) Fasullo, and grandson of my sister Ida and her husband Bill Van Beek, has a birthday coming up on Wednesday, February 21.

Of course, George Washington is in there on February 22, and "Presidents - generic" seems to be tomorrow.

Happy birthday all of you.

Monday, February 19

President's day

We didn't used to have any Presidents, or President's Day. We had Lincoln's Birthday on February 12, and Washington's Birthday on February 22. when these respective gentlemen were born.

The Federal Government started messing with things in 1971, when they changed Washington's birthday from the 22nd to the third Monday in February. I think this was solely for the benefit of the Post Office Department, as most people don't get the day off, but government workers do. Anyway, it is now switched to Presidents Day, and Washington is back to having his birthday on February 22, and nobody gets that day off.

In a few years it will probably degenerate into Federal Four Day Holiday Number 2, or whatever.

Missing mocking birds

One of the things I always liked about Cape Coral was the mocking birds. We have a plethora of birds in Barrington, but none of them are mocking birds. Here in Cape Coral, we always had at least one mocking bird who greeted me in front of our house each morning when I went out to bring the newspaper in. I usually didn't get to see it, but it sang beautifully from its hiding place in the trees. The mocking bird never came around to the back of the house, by the river.

At Palmetto Pine golf course, also, were mocking birds. ItMocking bird, mimus polyglottos, the State Bird of Florida was nice to hear them, and helped to offset the disappointing scores.

Unfortunately, this year, my front yard mocking birds didn't show up. There were still plenty of them at the golf course, but none on Edith Esplanade. I don't know why they left.

This morning, they were back for the first time this season. I say they, as there were a pair of them. They were sitting in plain view on the electric wires that run along on the other side of the street, right opposite our house. Singing their little hearts out. I wished I could have asked them where they have been all winter, and told them how glad I was to see (and hear) them back.

Tax day

I think it is appropriate that I spent most of President's day working to help keep his fleet of airplanes in good condition, and money in the till to pay the seventeen million people who mostly work for the Executive branch of the government.

I collected my papers together to send them in for income tax preparation. This shouldn't be very hard, as I don't have any business, no salary or tip income, and am not, to the best of my knowledge, taking part in the thousand and one activities the government chooses to subsidize these days. Still, it is a chore, and there are things about it that I don't understand. I get a strong feeling that it was not intended that I understand them.

Barrington Roof Troubles

At about 4:00 PM our time, Sharon called from Barrington to say that the roof was leaking over the swimming pool room and the foyer, in the corner that has caused trouble before. She says this is probably because there is a lot of snow on the roof and it has turned warm so it is starting to melt. We have been Old photo of Bartington house with snowthrough this before.

I called John, as being the closest of the kids in the area, but he was not home. Nor was he at Kacika. So, I let it go until after dinner, and called again. Cindy answered, and said John went out to get something to eat, but he returned while we were still talking. John said he would go over and look at the problem this evening, and give me a call back.

He called back around 9:00 our time to say that the heater cable for the drain downpipe was unplugged, so he plugged it back in. This might solve the problem, or it might not. He didn't want to go up on the roof in the dark, and I suggested that he not go up on the roof at all, but rather call Handyman Pros in Lake Zurich, and tell them we had some gutters that needed cleaning out. John said he would drive back out to Barrington in the morning, and take another look at the problem.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Ratus ratus Attack

Let me start by saying that, despite what my wife and daughter maintain, we do not have alley rats down here in Florida. We have a variation on the species which is smaller in size, shyer, and which, for the most part, prefers the outdoor life. These are usually called roof rats, because of their predilection for living on roofs and in attics. Dolores has long refused to let me plant grapefruit or orange trees, like our neighbors have, because someone told her they are River Rats, and are attracted by citrus trees.

The reason dinner was not burgers on the grill by Jan was that, when she went out to light the grill around 5:30, she shrieked "Dad" and cowered away from the grill (inserted by Janet: certain parties don't let the truth stand in the way of a good story. I flinched, then grimly fetched Dad. No shrieking. Only a little cowering). When I got out there, she said, "Something in there moved when I opened the lid." I was flattered that she called me to be the one to investigate and protect her from whatever creature it was lurking in our BBQ grill.

There was nothing immediately in evidence. I opened both lids, and all of the doors and did not see anything. However, when I lit one of the burners, there was a distinct scuttling noise, and sure enough, a relatively cute little rat jumped out the back and ran away. It was not the rat pictured at right, but one of it's grayer, less civilized cousins.

I have my work for tomorrow cut out for me. As soon as it is light enough, I am going to have to go out and sanitize the grill. 

On the bright side, Dolores has changed her stance on grapefruit trees. She now thinks that if we had one outside the lanai, perhaps the rats would eat the grapefruits and not come into the lanai for dinner. Janet does not believe this will help, but I always wanted a grapefruit tree, so I am going to buy one while Dolores is willing.

Janet's entropy theory

Entropy is a measure of disorder in a physical system. When the entropy of a system increases, things become more disorganized. Conversely, when things are becoming more disorganized, the entropy of the system goes up, Janet believes there are time periods when the entire universe is subject to increasing entropy levels, and mechanical things break down more frequently, and even people's bodies become more disorganized (sick).

Our first indication that a period of rapid entropy increase was starting  was when Sharon called about our roof leak.

Jim's Proof of Theory

Janet mentioned this episode to Jim, who responded that he was well aware of the trend toward disorder. Here is Jim's E-mail reply:

We are hopefully coming out of a massive entropy storm over here.


Last week, two people in my office crashed their cars. No one was hurt, but both were totaled. They did not crash into each other.


While moving Eleanorís crib into Claraís room, I broke the whole front off it. Now it is tied on with rope because I snapped pieces that canít be fixed or replaced.


Maria pulled a bowl down from the shelf and three glass bowls fell and shattered all over the kitchen floor so that we had to evacuate the kids so they wouldnít step on shards while we cleaned up.


Molly the dog ran around one side of a telephone pole and Clara ran around the other side holding her leash. Molly outweighs Clara by 20 pounds at least. Clara was yanked horizontal in the air and slammed face first into the pavement. She knocked three teeth loose (not out, and fortunately they are baby teeth) and her lips were swollen for three days. They bled all night long. She also bloodied her knees and elbows and wrenched her shoulder.


Clara is having a protracted and disquieting episode of acid reflux that has caused us to eliminate virtually every food she likes from her diet. She canít have pizza or spaghetti or milk or yogurt or cheese or anything else she likes. Itís been keeping her up in the night and, consequently us too.


Eleanor has a wracking cough that only manifests around midnight to five AM. She coughs herself awake and then cries piteously so that we have to get up and comfort her back to sleep. Between the two conditions, we are hardly getting any sleep at all.


Molly the dog ate M&Mís and threw up all over the house. Itís been a long time since an animal larger than a cat (humans excepted) threw up in my house. Man, a dog her size can vomit like the rising tide of the global warming flood.


Eleanor dropped the tray from her highchair on my big toe and probably broke it. Iím waiting for the toenail to fall off.


All of this is aggravated by the fact that no adult in my house (or child for that matter) has been well since basically our Thanksgiving trip to visit Chicago, when we all came down with something. I am not exaggerating. There has not been a day since then when any of us have been fully well. Weíve been deathís door sick a couple of times, but at best, weíve all been choking on mucus, coughing up our lungs and waking up with eyes crusted shut.


So, maybe the storm is just heading your way now, itís been here for some time.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

 Work cut out

I spent a good part of the day trying to make the BBQ grill on the lanai inhospitable to rats. On the theory that they are mostly food seeking animals, and do not really occupy things like BBQ grills just to cause us discomfort, I took our grill apart, and spent much of the day removing grease, cooked-on meat drippings, and rat droppings.

I am proud of the job I did, and I think and OSHA inspector would be pleased with the result. This was the hardest work I have done in a long time, but it is well worth the effort if it will get us hamburgers on the grill by Jan again.

Our new Grapefruit Tree

The rat convinced Dolores that it would be better to have a grapefruit tree outside the lanai and attract rats to it, than not to have one, and get the rats inside. I am not sure this is water proof logic, but this is the first time Dolores has wavered in her opposition to citrus trees. The opposition came from someone telling Dolores that anyone on the river has to worry about river rats, and that river rats are attracted by citrus trees of all kinds.

Getting a tree wasn't the easy job I thought it would be. I went to Lowe's super hardware store, with a huge outdoor garden section. To my surprise, they had dozens of trees of all sizes and shapes, all of which, without exception, were labeled "Citrus tree". The bigger ones had fruit on them that was Seedless Marsh Grapefruitclearly identifiable as oranges. It was like going into the produce section of a grocery, and finding that all of the produce was in opaque packages, all of which were labeled "vegetables". The second store was a bit easier to deal with. They had no citrus trees of any type, although they seemed to have every other type of plant known to man.

Finally, I went to the Home Depot Garden Center, where I sorted through another 50 citrus trees, which were labled as orange, lemon, kumquat, and some other things I had never heard of. No grapefruit trees. I cornered a store employee, who was obviously from a far away land, and who didn't know what a grape fruit was. However, he was very helpful. As I was standing in line to buy a small orange tree, he came and got me, and led me to a secret cache with another 50 or so citrus trees, of which one, and only one, was a grapefruit tree.

This is now our property. Like the Chinese, who become responsible for the lifetime of anyone whose life they save, I now have a long term commitment to the last available grapefruit tree in this part of Florida (or that I was able to find in the time available.)

John does Roof Rescue

John called to say that our ice dam/roof leaking/inside water damage problem was Bill on the roof, back in 2001, when we had similar problemsmitigated for the time being. He has the electric heater coil back plugged in to keep the downspout from freezing up, he has cleared away the mass of branches and debris that was obstructing the roof drain, and the ice that was cementing the debris together is melted.

However, he strongly recommends that I get a roof design consultant out to look and see if there isn't some way to mitigate this problem on a permanent basis, short of cutting down our massive willow tree that provides most of the branches.

John, we very much appreciate the rescue work, and I will see if I can't find such a rood drain consulting guy. Sorry we didn't have a photographer along to get photos of you on the roof, like Bill had back in 2001.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Father Paul does taxes

Father Paul Wachdorf, in his regular Thursday E-mail, said that they are finally getting a break in the severe winter weather the Chicago area, and just about every place else except Florida, has been having. He says the temperature is in the 30s and 40s, and the snow is starting to melt. However, rain, snow, sleet, or some combination of the three is expected over this coming weekend.

Father Paul says he got his tax returns taken care of yesterday. That surprised me somehow, as, without really thinking about it, I had assumed that priests, like the Catholic Church as a whole, were immune from taxes. I thought that they took a vow of poverty, or something, and that ought to settle the income problem once and for all. I guess not.

This led me to wonder if Paul can deduct the cost of his Lake Zurich hideaway as a business expense, as he maintains it as a place to get away from the pressures and responsibilities that are always there at Mundelein. Which led me to wonder if there aren't a lot of people who could claim that their whole household expense is necessitated because their businesses won't let them stay there twenty-four hours per day.

He also mentioned that on Saturday, he is going to perform a baptism for a child whose mother he also baptized when she was a baby. This will make him a Grand Baptizer. If he gets to do this child's child, at some time in the future, while he is still pastor of St. Gregory the Great, he will be a St. Gregory the Great Grand Baptizer.

Cruel Golfers

This is not about golfing, it is about interpersonal relationships.

Today, I had a mixed day on the golf course. I was having an unusually good day on the tee, hitting most of my drives straight down the fairway. Unfortunately, my good performance pretty well ended there, and I wound up with a so-so score.

On the 13th tee, I hit a very good drive. I remarked to the members of my foursome that if I could just hit the drives off the tee and quit after that, I would be much happier. One of my team members, Roy Pieotrowsky, asked with a perfectly straight face, "Isn't that what you have been doing all morning?'

Grill back in service

Janet ventured back to the grill this evening, and cooked a burger for Dolores and a steak for me. I was pleased that she didn't even have me go over to scout the terrain, and make sure there were no rats present.

I enjoyed the steak, but accept as part of the cost, that I am going to have to clean the grill after each and every usage, to insure that no self respecting rat would waste his time checking it out for food scraps or grease drippings or whatever was is that was attractive in the past.

Also, I watered the new Grapefruit tree, hoping to encourage it to thrive, grow grapefruits, and cast them on the ground for the rats to get instead of troubling to break into our lanai to get grill drippings.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Bicycle seldom used

I have been neglecting my old friend, the J. C. Higgins bicycle, similar to the one I had when I was a child. the reason is basically, psychological. I can feel relatively smug about having exercised my body for half an hour on the treadmill, whereas walking requires closer to an hour and a half to feel like I have really been diligent, and on the bicycle, anything short of an hour seems inadequate.

So, when I think I am short of time, the solution involves either using the treadmill or doing nothing at all. This then frees up my schedule for such necessities as afternoon naps.

Well, I am trying to be a better organized person. I have quit stealing pens (I am up to a full week without having stolen a single pen), but this doesn't seem to have saved much time. So, I am going to economize on the afternoon nap time, and this let me fit in an hour on the bicycle today.

While I dearly love that old bicycle, I can tell that I have neglected it too long. My legs are tired. Apparently, you do not use your peddling muscles when walking on the treadmill.

Katie Jackson to visit Florida

Katie sent an E-mail this morning to say that she will be in Florida attending a medical convention on March 25-26. The meeting is going to be is St. Petersburg, which is about 125 miles from our house in  Cape Coral. We hope she will be able to find the time to drive down to see us.Katie Jackson

In past years, I would have offered to fly up and get her, accomplishing the dual purpose of saving her time, and getting some flying time in for me. However, it is not so easy now. With no medical certificate (my February 8 letter to the FAA Federal Air Surgeon, asking him to review the decision to withhold my certificate has not been answered or acknowledged yet. Your tax dollars at work, but not at work very well.) I have to arrange a baby sitter pilot to go with me, and it usually has to be done well in advance.

We hope to get to see you sometime while you are visiting St. Pete, Katie.

Notification E-mails

OK, I give in.

I will go back to sending out notification E-mails saying that the newsletter for the week is done. I have had numerous complaints from people that I dropped them from the mailing list, when, in fact, I dropped everyone from the mailing list.

I changed the format of the newsletters somewhat, to make it easier to get to the current newsletter by just typing hardison.info into the web browser, and then going from there to the current newsletter, or the work in process. I started listing the subject for both on the home page with hyperlinks, so you could simply go to anything that interested you, and skip the other stuff.

My motivation was that lots of people now have anti-Spam programs that identify any messages that are sent to multiple recipients as Spam, and cast them into the garbage. Even my own Spam filter was giving me a hard time about sending things it thought might be Spam. I was able to get around it, after a fashion, by breaking the newsletter mailing list up into four shorter mailing lists. I was still under suspicion from McAfee, but I was able to get by with it.

Anyway, there have been enough complaints that I apologize to those of you who thought I was slighting you by not sending you an E-mail. You shall get one tomorrow, if I can find your E-mail address.

Saturday, February 24. 2007

Portland entropy down

Jim and Clara and Eleanor phoned this morning.

The main thrust of the phone call was that Clara wanted to say hello to us one last time as a five year old, as she will be six when she wakes up tomorrow. I did not want to spoil her picture of how this happens by bringing up the possibility that the exact moment of her birth might have been some time after she usually gets up in the morning.

It made me recall my own disillusionment when, after having a lot of birthdays, it finally became apparent to me that there was no particular time that the wisdom I credited adults with having would come to me. In fact, the adults didn't actually seem to have it. How sad.

Clara was pleased to have received her package from us ("us" being Aunt Janet, the thoughtful member of the family).

Jim reported that most of the family had now recovered from their respective sicknesses; all but him. He still has a touch of whatever it was, or, I guess, continues to be.

Happy Birthday, tomorrow, Clara.

Carefree House Closing

I got a package of documents via UPS yesterday, which looked like the complete set of closing documents. The were marked with a dozen places I had to sign, a couple of which I had to take to the bank this morning and have notarized. I had them back in the UPS store for overnight delivery back to Arizona on Monday.

It looks to me pretty much like the sale of the Carefree house is a done deal, although I don't have the money yet.